Posts Tagged ‘Eco system’

Federal Budget Cuts and the Environment

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

When thinking about something’s “value” we often get confused by just exactly what that means. Seeing value in only direct monetary terms is short sided and can easily lead us astray. Think of it this way, compare the “value” of lets say gold, to the “value” of air. We think of air as free, and gold is – well, valuable – how odd is that?   Just imagine that if you take gold away, your fine but take air away and you’ll die. Seems to me that air should have far more value then gold since we can not live without it. Compare diamonds and water – do you see my point? These days we seem to describe something as valuable based on a flawed system. All too often we loose site of what’s really important and take them for granted. The children then grow up in a world where they are taught to hold monitory things as far more important then the natural world, which is dangerous for the well being of everything and is something we need to correct right away. If you replace the word “valuable” with the word “precious” it helps but still we see terms like “precious metals” as opposed to “precious forests”.

Image from forestpolicyresearch.com

How does this poor use of the term valuable lead us astray? Take the recent budget cuts here in the United States. The goal was to cut spending so they pulled money from things considered less important, or to put it another way, less valuable. Being a naturalist all my life I knew what that meant long before anyone itemized the cuts because I have seen this many times. It means that laws protecting the environment, agencies whose job it is to enforce environmental protection even protected wildlife habitat all come under attack. That’s because of the confusion about value. There are those in government that want very much to exploit the natural world for profit and have a long track record of doing exactly that. Trading (air) and (water) for (gold) and (diamonds) when you think about it.

The irony is that I know we are better then this and so do you. I believe the majority of us care, I mean who wants their family to not have air and drinking water?  What I can not understand is why so many of us are all but unaware when these “precious and valuable” natural resources come under attack. Our future depends on our society learning to live “with” the natural world and not in spite of it. We all would rather see a clean and healthy watershed and forest then a devastated one.

Image from Care2.com

In the recent federal budget cuts were things like “lifting protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. Now I am no economist mind you, but how exactly does failing to protect an endangered species help federal budget shortcomings? What that really is all about is special interest groups out west in this particular case, called “ranchers” who have been trying to open up wolves to hunting since they were reintroduced. The Wolf has as much right to exist on public land as any other species does and certainly more right then free roaming domestic cattle in my opinion. They are public lands we are talking about not just a particular piece of private land. Now in my case after being involved with these discussions and paying attention to what has been happening I no longer consume beef. I made that choice many years ago after hearing multiple reports of ranchers killing wolves. I figured that was the one thing I had the immediate power to do and that no one person or organization had the power to control. So instantly I was no longer their customer and therefore stopped supporting their business. When you purchase beef you are funding them after all. We have all heard the term “the customer is always right” because in business you want to protect the relationship with your customers because that is literally how you are paid. The point being if enough of the beef consuming public wants to “protect wolves” we could then demand it of the ranching community by our own purchase decisions. There are some ranchers, that have stood up and “do” actually work with environmental groups to protect their cattle but at the same time not harm the wolves. Those ranchers should get more publicity for their positive contributions and also provide a venue for those in that market. In this way, protecting wolves would become a reality because in the end of the day don’t “we the people” control that money. We just need to put our money in the right places where we see the most “value”. Imagine that instead of the flash mob phenomena simply dancing in a mall, we instead used the power of social media to take control of protecting wildlife by shifting our purchase power.  Rest assure that there is nothing that gets attention to a cause like moving our buying power money around from folks who hold that, as the most… “valuable”

Wolves are “valuable” because a clean and healthy natural world does consist of apex predators.

Image of Earth's water cycle from NASA.gov

Other recent cuts that gave me direct pause were things like the gut wrenching $1 billion from Environmental Protection Agency. Remember the EPA enforces laws to protect against greenhouse gases, clean drinking water etc. Think of what will happen at the hands of coal plants for example, without that level of monitored and safeguards in place. Other groups that received cuts were the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consisting of industry scientists around the world dealing with the impact of climate change. There was even $407 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Ironic when you think about how they are cutting the funding protecting against greenhouse gases and then cutting the funding for new sciences to help break our dependency on things that produce, greenhouse gases. Projects like high speed rails not only help reduce greenhouse gases by providing alternative commuting but also create jobs so I found that odd that they have even cut funding to a high speed rail system. At the same time as we are talking about federal “overspending” I was curious about how much money was being spent overseas. What does it cost to be in Iraq and Afghanistan these days etc? A quick online search shows that we spent over 1.1 “trillion” (with a T) dollars overseas fighting battles in places that produce oil. A source of energy that creates greenhouse gases. I found this website with a chart showing how fast money is being spent overseas that is actually a near real time view. http://costofwar.com/en/ I am not affiliated with the site so I cant speak about it other then they have a great chart showing the cost.

Now let’s talk again about our use of the term “value”.

According to dictionary.com the top three definitions of value are as follows:

1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.

2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.

3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

I still am not really seeing the point of why we think “money” is more “valuable” then “Clean Air”, “Clean Water” and “Wildlife”. I believe we have become confused about what’s important in life and those who would sacrifice all we have for a quick profit are making decisions that will profoundly impact each one of us, our children and the world we all share.

Nothing is more valuable then Mother Earth and its time we recognized that.

Mark Fraser

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Radioactive Rain

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

There are two things that I think should not be used in the same sentence, “radioactive” and “rain”.  It is already serious enough to live with the impacts of “Acid Rain” on our watersheds thanks in large part to the use of Coal. There was a time when news like “Radioactive Rain” would have sent people into a serious frenzy. Officials saying “nothing to worry about” would have a very bad day as the concerned public would be out making statements of protest showing real and honest concern for the health of our environment and families. My, the things we can get used to hearing about are truly surprising. Over the years subjects that were once cause for real concern and even uproar seem to be old hat these days. Take “climate change” I remember not long ago when that was a serious subject, yet these days when I speak with people about it, I often hear people say they heard it was not an issue or even a political hoax. Even more scary; is when people say “I don’t like snow anyway”. Of course there are so many things that could be said about all of that but I will sum it up as that it leaves me sort of baffled. When exactly did that happen? How did we get so desensitized to the things going on around us?

I suppose that is why I was not very surprised seeing a lack of uproar at the local weather report. I was listening to a meteorologist the other day in the Boston area talking about “radioactive rain”. He proclaimed that it was no big deal and that it was less then getting an X-Ray exam. My first impression was “so is this person a physicist and also a PHD who studied the impact of radiation on human health over time?” If not, respectfully we all need to ask our own questions, and I feel we should be concerned for the potential “long term” impacts as the ecosystems around us are now absorbing radiation from this disaster.

You see being a conservationist I pay close attention to pollutions impacting on the natural world. Things like lead, mercury and plastics have an impact that has a very unique characteristic. It’s called “bio-magnification”. Basically that term describes how pollutants magnify in the food web. One example is when something consumes something else as prey, when the prey has been contaminated. The predator eats many of the prey, and therefore has a far greater amount of exposure to the pollutant. This works its way right up the food chain and includes you and I by the way. There are real examples of that all over nature. Takes Loons, they are contaminated by lead and mercury pollutants from things like “lead sinkers” used by fisherman that for some reason are still sold in stores to this day (crazy, I know).   Since Loons eat many fish that are contaminated and lead stays in their bodies a very long time, it then magnifies as more and more lead is ingested. This problem is not only very real but actually threatens their very survival. This same bio-magnifications impact Eagles as well.

Image from USGS

In fact, to some degree it can impact nearly everything. Salmon, considered a super healthy food for humans because of Omega3 fatty acids is also a fish that comes with a warning. If you eat Salmon too often then you can increase your own exposure to mercury (Hg) and so on. Ok so now that we understand “bio-magnification” lets talk about the radioactive rain that keeps popping up on the news. It doesn’t require a physicist to explain how the radioactive particles traveled around the world on the wind and are now washing down in the form of rain. There are lots of warm and fuzzy reports about it stating that “you can get more radiation from flying or from an XRAY”.  The problem is that as this crisis at the Fukushima plant is ongoing. It continues day after day while TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) tries to battle this horrific environmental disaster but each day those same radioactive particles continue to dust across entire the ecosystem. They concentrate in rain and on to our crops. That would include grass, eaten by milking cows that we get our milk from by the way. So “biomagnification” can occur right in our own home.  As always there are lots of would be experts speaking about how everything is fine and that there is nothing to worry about. It reminds me of the BP Oil spill how for a while the news reports about the oil inteh Gulf said “it just evaporated” while local residents continued to try and report the truth about what they actually see on the site- and they still do by the way.  Now in this case, this catastrophe is no doubt causing serious ecological impact. Radioactive water has actually run into the ocean. What sort of impact does that have on sea life and how long will it last? I do not think anyone really knows.  One thing is for sure. We are seeing the truth about our choices for energy. Nuclear, Oil, Coal, Natural Gas all come with “very serious” ecological impact often overlooked because those who support it are backed by billions of dollars of profit (also called lobbyist) while those who fight to protect the health of the world are often not funded at all. I believe we need to pay “very” close attention to what is going on in the world around us. Our insatiable appetite for more and more power needs to employ far more wisdom with each of the steps we take.

Like DDT, Mercury, Lead and other environmental pollutants, when “our” habitat has been contaminated the ramifications can be vast, especially when considered over time.  Even when readings start off very low, we need to carefully monitor the complex web of ecological relationships now infused with the offending pollutant. Considering the long term potential health impacts of even small amounts of radiation, I wonder if this Nuclear event combined with the massive BP Oil spill, will finally allow us to take a far more serious look at our choices going forward. Hopefully in time, we can use these tragedies as a catalysis to make better choices about the real use of Geo Thermal and renewable energy sources in the future. In time I’m sure we can learn to make the right decisions, I hope so because as I type this article and look out my window, I see that it’s raining…

Mark Fraser

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Renewable Energy

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Finding an abundant energy source is not restricted to the realm of humanity, in fact the quest for energy exists throughout the natural world. Looking for sunlight is a common beginning to that quest. I mean it makes sense, the sun is right there only 8 “light” minutes away and thankfully shining on our planet. This abundant energy source allows living species (plants) to take advantage of that energy derived from sunlight with the process of photosynthesis. I think we should give plants credit because they seemed to have solved the energy crisis without having to ask the question about renewable energy in the first place.

The problem when you think about it comes when we get greedy. You see at some point, life forms on Earth realized they could steal energy from other life forms that collect it in the first place. Another way to say that is “Predator – Prey” relationships. When you think about that,  it is a species (predator) taking the energy stored in the (prey). Even herbivorous prey species like Deer for example get their energy from plants that in turn get their energy from the sun.

Image from NASA.gov

So the renewable energy seems to work its way throughout the natural world both directly and indirectly. Remember food “is” energy, it’s easier to wrap your mind around that statement when you call food “fuel” then it makes more sense.

Ok so back to renewable energy. When you hear about horrible nuclear disasters like what has happened in Japan after the tragic Earthquake and Tsunami, people quickly look for alternate sources of renewable energy. Since Coal causes Acid Rain (which is extremely bad) for the natural world, finding “clean” energy is also critically important. Nuclear is so popular simply because it creates an awful lot of heat, which makes steam, which runs turbines and makes electricity. The added and very impressive benefit is that it doesn’t create Acid Rain in the process. It does however have many problems of its own, especially when dealing with the so called spent rods (they are radioactive after all).

Now let’s look at things from a different point of view. Nature does a really good job at showing us the way when we give her a patient glance with an open mind. Some forms of life on Earth do not even use Photosynthesis for energy, they instead take advantage of the hot thermals on the oceans floor. So there are chemical forms of energy as well. Taking advantage of hot thermals is a very interesting idea. Any trip to Yellowstone national park will quickly show you just how hot the world below can be as you witness amazing blasts of steam erupting from the Earth. There are even incredible forms of bacteria tinting the watersheds with impressive pastels that are using the nutrient energy themselves.

Image from NASA.gov

Taking advantage of the warmer subsurface temperatures is not new to science and creates several opportunities for renewable energy since the Earth is heating itself and we can take advantage of that. Geo-thermal power is not new and does exactly that by creating electricity from the naturally occurring heat generated at thermal vents. This process is already being used in several countries. Taking that down a notch to a residential version is important when trying to bring a renewable resource to fruition.  The first and what I would argue to be the most important step is to make “all” homes Geo-Thermal capable. There are two basic types; the closed loop and also an open loop system for residential application. The principle for both is the same. Take advantage of the stable water temperature below the ground then use that to cool your home in summer and heat it in the winter. Below the frost line in the ground the water temperature is very constant between 50 and 60 degrees all year “regardless of the season or temperature” above ground.  So you can use

Image from NASA.gov

that constant resource to control the temperature in your own home. You would only heat from approx 55 deg

rees to 68 or whatever your normal temperature is and for those who need coolant more than heat, the same applies in the other direction. The net benefit is enormous savings per month especially at the extreme climate times. It also means far less demand on other sources of heat and coolant nationally and or globally if we all adopt this method.You might wonder why everyone doesn’t do this. That’s because the cost can range from 10 to 20 thousand dollars to create depending on the contractor, etc. However, if “all” new construction was required to be geo-thermal compliant, wouldn’t that create jobs? A boom in the Geo-thermal market means people working in manufacturing, maintenance and construction and all that for a far reduced heating and cooling demand. At the same time making this process common would dramatically reduce the cost as we see in any other growing business. Therefore, when we talk about renewable energy methods such as wind and solar solutions are great augmentations to the electric grid but let’s also put focus on each of our homes own consumption with a Geo-Thermal “renewable energy” type solution.

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A Universe unto Itself

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Living our daily lives we hardly notice the goings on in the natural world. I suppose in all fairness they probably do the same. A close observation of a flower will reveal to you that it is not only a place for an insect or hummingbird to find nectar, but it is also a home for a wide variety of insects looking like representatives from an alien world. The range in color in body shapes is as varied as their roles. There is everything from miniature predators like spiders waiting to ambush other species looking for nectar to herbivores taking advantage of the plant itself. In some cases there is even species looking to simply catch a ride on other species like some sort of a biological bus station.

Each zone in the natural world is like its own world with its own set of rules just like each continent on Earth has its own unique accent of plant life and fauna. These same rules apply both above and below the waterline where each habitat range provides a bounty of sustainability to its own fauna and plant life. During a recent dive into Lake Champlain I found that depth and lighting created a universe unto itself allowing specific species and survival techniques to flourish.  Just imagine that this particular lake is 120 miles long. However it varies in depth from very shallow to an amazing 400 ft depth.

The amount of sunlight varies greatly as well so the deeper you go the less sunlight makes it to the bottom. This means the greatest amounts of algae are in the areas that allow near constant bathing in sunlight.

Life in the Shallows” seems to be driven by the very sunlight it self. The abundance of light allows for blooms of algae that in turn is food for species including filter feeders like invasive Zebra Mussels whose razor sharp shells seem to cover the bottom until you go deep enough that they are starved for algae due to the eventual decrease in sunlight. Amazingly some species of birds and fish do actually feed on Zebra Mussels so although they are invasive, they are now another food source and also abundant.

In the coming years biologists will need to perform long term studies to understand the impact on the overall health of species like Yellow Perch that now include the Zebra Mussels on their dinner menu. The shallow zones of Lake Champlain are now synonymous with these prolific mussels but the well lit areas also have many other species carving out a niche in this shallow aquatic universe. It is hear that large predatory fish are taking advantage of those beams of light that makes their prey stand out in the brightly lit water. While exploring by scuba on water approx 8 to 15 ft I found they seemed to be patrolling parallel to the beach along the longer part of the lake and looked like some sort of aquatic bird of prey soaring like a Hawk waiting to flush out its prey as its eyes gazed with  deep intent at the world below.

With colors reminiscent of camouflaged soldiers trying to remain hidden the Log perch Darter fish blends perfectly against the grasses along the bottom. Their colors look like a beautiful design blending of jaguar and tiger patterns with a yellowish hue background against the black stripes. Like their namesake they seemed to “Dart” about within the small rounded rocks on the bottom quickly looking for food before once again finding a hiding place as the ominous shadows of the predator fish species like Smallmouth bass move with and eerie glide nearby.

With the lake having over 80 types of fish they come in may sizes. Some species in large freshwater lakes such as Lake Champlain can be enormous like Channel Catfish weighing well over 30 pounds to Sturgeon that can be 7 feet long and over 300 pounds! I did not see any during the recent series of diving expeditions however; I did come across a very large and exciting species to swim with which included the somewhat skittish Fresh Water Drum. I saw several of these very large fish in the shallows in water that was about 12 ft deep. They were very large and at least at a glance appeared to be well over 10 pounds. They added to the excitement of the exploration and gave an amazing sense of wonder to the shallows.

Like all things in nature, the most amazing things come when we actually pay attention to the fine details.

Seeing species taking advantage of “Life in the Shallows” introduced me to a beautiful world of amazement just beyond the beach and the glitter of the sun dancing on the waters surface. Understanding that each unique zone within such a massive watershed forms a universe unto itself means we can have a greater understanding their secret world.

Admiring the myriad of life in the shallow water zone is undoubtedly key to our own species appreciation of the health of the watershed and also the raw beauty that resides just beyond our site. I suppose that is what it’s really all about, taking the time to understanding our wild neighbors then gaining a better appreciation of them.

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The Social Media Revolution Solution

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

In the natural world, species that are considered “prey” often use a common tactic by joining forces with others and taking advantage of the “strength in numbers” benefit. This can both confuse and overwhelm the predator that is challenging them. In the human domain, that applies just as much, we “are” animals after all.

Watching the people in countries like Egypt and Libya rise up and struggle to bring about change in their homeland is literally about that same strength in numbers that applies to any species.

History itself will inevitably decide both the positive and or negative outcomes of this new and powerful social capability.

Those are stunning examples of people uniting their own voices to a common cause. In a world of instant communication and constant social media, broadcasting a viral “thought” is a new hi-tech approach to the phenomena of social change. The message is instantly capable of traveling like a living breathing organism working its way through the minds of the masses. Sometimes the sway of society’s popular opinion can turn on a dime sounding the bells of freedom and the end of oppression or in some other cases to strange directions that seem to fly in the face of reason.

Recently I watched major news reports of Charlie Sheen as they seemed to morph the stories from a drug riddled public meltdown into a Twitter superstar posting comments like #winning.

Suddenly the social media “Flock” sprung into action and millions connected to watch. Was this shift of millions to help better the world, save wildlife, help with poverty or end social oppression?….um…no.

Of course the money hungry marketers have no doubt stepped in and as long as the eyes of the masses are still watching Charlie’s party you’ll see lots of drinks, phones and untold products magically appear on tweet photos. Some stars are paid by the “tweet”, very lucrative deals because the commercial real estate on their Facebook and Twitter pages are enormous.

Odd, isn’t it? I actually find a healthy forest and clean river far more important and, well “valuable”.

Perhaps it’s our definition of the word “valuable” that has taken a serious turn into the Twilight Zone. According to my quick search on “Google” looking to define the term value, I see one of the top 3 definitions that seems to apply. “The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable; “the Shakespearean Shylock is of dubious value in the modern world”

I would say that there is overwhelming evidence that a beautiful healthy forest with wildlife brings a positive quality to life making our own lives on this Earth more desirable. Letting it die and harming it, brings upon a negative impact and so on.

So how is it that we do not seem to “value” the most important things yet we flock to the stories of the strangest and most bizarre behavior? Not that Charlie is all that bizarre, he actually reminds me of my late uncle both in looks and in character. After all it’s not like he suddenly shaved his hair off or anything.

No matter how you slice it there seems to be a huge void between “ethics” and “value” and that discrepancy, well makes me concerned for our future and the fate of all that wildlife that I keep blogging about. We teach ethical guidelines to our children and they will make the decisions of tomorrow. That means it is vitally important for our generation to provide a healthy moral compass to our children to invest in the future of the entire world. Is this really needed in our tech savvy society? Well, look at the influences of today’s online world. Any research on the most popular films seen on Youtube demonstrates the point as the most popular films tend to avoid any social or educational “value” albeit some are certainly fun to watch.

The people in Egypt and Libya from what I see on the news seem to value their
basic freedoms and their rights as a people. They look like they are standing up
for “We the People” hmmm, boy that sure sounds familiar.

What I find hard to understand is that many of us seem to be “bored” with
real-world issues like caring for the natural world (you know, just the health
of the planet that gives “us” life) and lately are fascinated by a wealthy mans public
meltdown. What exactly does that say about “us” as a society and our own moral
compass?

I think its time that we had our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” and
start to put “ethics” back in front of “value”.

Living on this Earth made us rich by birth; we just seem to have forgotten that.
There is no greater wealth then the smell of a healthy forest, the view of an
Eagle in flight and the admiration of a young Deer fawn in a meadow.

You see, we could “create” our own “Social Media Revolution Solution” by helping promote “good” in the world. Imagine what we could do if caring about the natural world could once again be seen as “valuable”.

That is, if we could just allow ourselves the joy of understanding that in the first place.

Then, perhaps we really would all be “#winning”.

Mark Fraser

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Terraform Earth

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

“Terra-forming” that’s a theory about taking a world like mars and making it Earth like. It’s a fascinating scientific endeavor into the possibility of making another planet or even a moon somehow become new habitat for our own species.  Now that’s an interesting subject when you think about it. During my life growing up in the 1970s with great TV series like “Space 1999” where humans actually lived on the Moon, albeit not a terra-formed one, but still they carved out a seemingly impossible niche none the less. I liked that show as a kid and I have often wondered about such things. Life on the surface of the Moon or Mars seems exciting at least at first glance, although I then have to ask myself, would I actually “want” to live in a place like that? Ok so then I went to get a drink of tap water, and the real world came crashing back to me. It’s all about “this” world, isn’t it?

I know there are a lot of Sci-fi folks out there that don’t want to hear this but Terra-forming theory is just that, a “theory”. It’s easy to debate the “what if’s” about the engineering and financial considerations involving warming a planet, introducing algae or microbes helping to create a new world so perhaps we can one day enjoy it however today here you are, hungry, thirsty and needing of shelter. All of which come from the planet your on right now, the Earth (no offense to the International Space Station team). Now I suppose one could say we are actually Terra-forming the Earth, just not intentionally and the current direction isn’t exactly been what one would call “creating a better world”.

No worries, there are some simple truths about our lives to keep the peace with the most die hard science types:

Fact: We are already floating in space… that’s pretty cool.

Fact: There is substantial evidence of life forms right here on Earth that are millions of years older then our own species (ask any cockroach, shark or horseshoe crab)

Fact: There is non human intelligent life on the planet. According to species like crow, apes, dolphins and elephants all intelligent life is non human by definition. Ahem…

Terra-form your own world in 6 easy steps? Sure we can…


Step 1: Protect Sea life

Filling the Oceans with so much plastic that it replaces plankton is a really, really bad idea. The so called “Garbage Patches” that exist around the planet are collection points due to current. Point being the entire sea is at risk from our bad habits and the current eventually takes the broken down pieces of plastic to the gyres like the Pacific Garbage patch. What can we do about something so massive? Lot’s, for example we “each” could say goodbye to plastic disposable shopping bags, bottled water and only shop for products that use an Earth friendly approach to their product material and eventual recycling. Of course all this is mute unless we use “sustainable fishing” in practice rather then theory

(It doesn’t hurt to try)

Step 2: Preserve wild places:

Like us wildlife needs a home. There is less wild places every second of every day around the world, help reverse that. Zoning laws meant to keep a community green actually increase “urban sprawl” substantially.  Is it me, or do you find it strange that we often drive past a dozen abandoned city buildings to get to the new development? Having eco-friendly practices in our lawn and yard care can help substantially as well. (Did you really think safe labels on pesticides meant they were actually safe?)

Step 3: Prevent acid rain

Many planets are acidic but does ours have to be? Dealing with that is a serious concern. Acid falls in the form if rain/snow which can corrode the soil and make the watersheds sterile bleaching away the possibility of fish. Solution; update the “Clean Air Act” to include better regulations and avoid corporate dollars from undermining the spirit of the law. Keeping sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in check will ensure our watersheds can support fish which are important considerations when making a planet habitable, especially our own.

Step 4: When politicians disregard climate scientists, “change the channel”

Yes contrary to the belief of some, political party affiliation does not also mean you have become a climatologist. Scientists around the world have never been as united as they are to say the Earth’s climate is dramatically changing and our behavior does impact it.

Let me try to sum this up with some basic math;

Steady Climate= Farms= Food

Or

Unsteady Climate=? Farms =? Food

Step 5: Plant a tree

I don’t mean just send money  so someone else can plant a tree for you. I mean get a Pine Cone or Acorn of a native tree. Put the seed into a pot and raise it your self at home. When its time to plant your baby tree sapling, take your family with you. Find a place that is safe for the young tree by studying what it needs to survive. Look for a spot where it won’t be cut down by future development during its life cycle. Those steps alone will teach you more about conservation than you would expect. Teach your self and family about how that very tree exhales what we inhale and role you eyes at anyone who says it doesn’t count because they don’t have lungs and remind them that “we do”. Keep in mind that very tree could grow to outlive your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand children and even far beyond them. It may be the longest lasting legacy of your entire life, really.


Step 6: Become the person you know you can be.

Do not expect someone else to fix the world for you because that simply won’t happen. You have to become the hero right where you live, for your family, for your community and for the planet that all of us share.

So I suppose all things considered there is a form of Terra-forming we can actually do today on a planet wide scale. Let’s call this a great experiment in the future of our own species. If we can make all 6 of the above steps come to life maybe we will actually be around in the future to see a community on the Moon or even Mars.

I believe we can succeed. Nature has the amazing ability to heal, and we have the amazing ability to rise to diversity. The future really is up to us.

Mark Fraser

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Living with Carnivores: The Coy Wolf

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes and I truly love them all, but let’s face it some species have a bad rap.  Carnivores for example seem to suffer from a skewed public image.  Let’s talk about that for a moment. Cats are carnivores, and very serious ones at that. When domestic cats are left outside suddenly cuddly little fee-fee is pouncing on Chipmunks and songbirds and in fact “millions” of birds and many other species are taken each year from our domestic pets.  Despite this fact, Cats are considered “cute” so regardless of the science about what really happens, they are left outside and continue to harm local wildlife because they are lucky or even smart enough, to make friends with humans. That’s an important survival skill for a carnivore these days since we are still learning how to coexist with wildlife.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Let’s look at another species, the “Coy-Wolf” also sometimes called the Eastern Coyote. This is a large predator with some animals reaching huge sizes of 50 to 60 pounds double their western cousins and is actually due to the genetics of being a hybrid between the Western Coyote and the Eastern “red” Wolf.  Like the Cat, this animal is a true carnivore and in the case of the Coy-Wolf is also a very intelligent opportunistic and social hunter.  Unlike that Cat, the Coy-Wolf suffers from a very serious public image problem. They pay a terrible price for that fact and are hunted relentlessly in many areas of their habitat and despite their wild beauty, haven’t yet been able to win over us humans.  Coy-Wolves are a “stunning” looking animal reminiscent of wild times long ago and one would think that people would warm up to them.  They look like, and are very closely related to dogs who are our best friends so what exactly is going on? Well first of all we can’t tame them and many people are bothered by that.  They are really wild, not like the domestic cat who just acts like that when you’re not looking.  The other problem is a real one – they sometimes will eat unprotected cats that are left outside. Our pets are our family and people who have lost a small dog or cat to a coyote or Coy-Wolf certainly have good reason to be upset.  There is however more to the story, and rushing to judgment isn’t always the best approach.  Living with carnivores requires some disciplines to ensure the safety of your household pet as well as the safety of the wildlife. Think of it this way, living next to a road (like most of us do) is far more dangerous. We learn common sense rules at a very young age. “Look both ways before crossing”, “stay in your lane when driving” and the list goes on and on. Following these rules is the best way to ensure your safety. Would you let your small dog or cat cross a busy highway?  Of course not, that’s because you know the rules and the consequences.  Living with carnivores also comes with rules and is by far, much safer then the highway. If you leave food outside for your pet you most likely will attract wildlife including carnivores.  So leaving a doggy dish with food in it can attract Coy-wolves.   Leaving your pet outside unattended is taking a chance that could put your pet in harm’s way so try and keep a leash on your pet or at a minimum stay with your pet. Most importantly, do not let your pets out at night. There is no need since you can easily set a schedule with your pet so they go out when it’s safe to do so. If you must let them out at night for some reason remember the earlier leash rule.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Like the highway, following all the rules doesn’t mean that something unexpected can never happen however, it will greatly reduce the risk of an incident that can hurt your pet, and the wildlife.  People often ask if humans are at risk from Coyotes and Coy-Wolves. The answer is certainly “no” you are completely safe I have been in the presence of these animals many times. Here is another way to make the point. Every year, there are more fatalities from “domestic dogs” then there are from coyotes or coy-wolves in “all of recorded history”. Please read the previous sentence twice, it’s important.

The environment flourishes when there are carnivores its nature’s way and trust that she knows exactly what she is doing-she has had alot of practice.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.  Mother Nature chose them to fill a niche in the natural world fixing an apex predator void that we humans created. Learn about this beautiful species online from scientists studying the species like Dr Way http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com and cherish their incredible songs. Recently I had the honor of spending time with Dr Way tracking radio collared Coy-Wolves during the night and studying them.  His critical research is helping to better understand this amazing and yet poorly understood species. You’ll see more about the Coy-Wolf and observe some actual film taken during the research trip in the coming weeks on the Nature Walks Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/nwwmark

They are as beautiful as any species you will meet and I hope in time we all can learn to both appreciate, and live “with” this beautiful singing wild k9 called the Coy Wolf.

Mark Fraser

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Kayaking for wildlife

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

This Spring, I decided to explore some remote rivers and look for wildlife along the banks.  I found what I was after in a great river near the Canadian border. Parking the vehicle, I could feel the excitement that I often get when exploring a habitat by kayak.  The access point was across the street so I decided to quickly run across the road to have a look at the river.  Being Spring,  the Black Flies were buzzing around me looking for a snack and getting what they came for :-) . As I took the first 4 or 5 steps to cross the road, I look over my right side and there is a beautiful and very large Black Bear also crossing the road fairly close. The Black Flies must have driven him out of the forest towards the river and by chance there we both are looking at each other with a “ruh-roh” kind of confused look hahaha.  I decide to try and get my video camera but sure enough the second I moved he was gone.  I took that as a great sign for the kayak trip and sure enough it was full of surprises! Well, come see for yourself! Enjoy this virtual tour of the trip!

Kayaking Riverside Habitats

Getting out and exploring wildlife is the best way to build a relationship with the natural world! One of the best ways to do that is certainly by drifting along in a kayak. For me there is no greater thrill then to slowly traveling down a flat water, slow moving river and exploring the exciting wildlife found around every corner. With the Gulf Oil Spill being on the news everyday and knowing what is happening to those important aquatic habitats it makes this all the more important. We need to pay very close attention to the natural world around us. When we teach our children to love and respect nature, we ensure there is a future place for wildlife to live.

When you get right down to it, if you do not know the native species of plants and animals are in your own area, then how do you know when non – native invasive species are introduced? How would you know when a species of plant or animal is “missing” unless you take the time to know what is there now?  That’s the whole idea, getting to know the amazing world we share and keeping an eye on it. With a flat water kayak trip, you can relax and drift along while admiring countless species of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. Even the insects have a ton of surprises in fact some like the “Green Darner” Dragonfly actually migrate like birds!  There were so many amazing species found along the river it certainly speaks to the importance of protecting river systems. While we live out busy lives commuting on a highway (that’s a freeway for you California folks) that trip is not that different then a River Otter starting his or her day navigating the river looking for the bounty of food. It’s so important to understand that remote rivers must be kept so the species that survive there have a place that is protected and clean. 100% of their food comes directly from the habitat around them, so you can imagine what happens if that habitat becomes polluted.  The best part is that it’s simply an enjoyable thing to do. Like a healthy Nature Walk in the forest, kayaking allows you to be a part of the beautiful wild world we all share, so get out and enjoy it!

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Make it count!

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Let’s face it, life is really short. Regardless of who we are or where we come from we have a brief chance to make the best of our own lives. Appreciating every simple pleasure from a sunrise to a passing bird is the secret sauce to life. We are remembered by our kids and those in which we have made an impression on during our lives. The bigger the impression the longer we are remembered and eventually in time, like a long lost flake of snow belonging to a previous winter we melt away in time returning to the place in which we all came from. What kind of story will they tell about your life, how will you be remembered? How long will that memory of your life last? One generation, perhaps four generations, and then what? How far back in your own family can you remember or know the story of those who came before we did. Paying attention to the elderly is one of the best ways to gain insight and wisdom during our lives but how many of us do. They have so much to teach us and remember they have been through far more “life” then we have. Learning from their experiences helps us navigate in our own lives and knowing the stories that they remember carries the torch of the lessons of so long ago. To many first nations of North America, it’s said that people should try to leave the world better then you found it for the next 7 generations. What a thought, being stewards of the land in such a way that world is protected for so very long after we are gone. There is a lot of wisdom in that. *Making our lives count* and leaving the world better then we find it.

I have to wonder if any of us are really doing that in today’s world.  I myself have a smart phone attached to my hip. What happens when it no longer works and I must dispose of it, where do those hazardous chemicals go? There are so many examples of that in our lives it boggles the mind. Simple innocent ways in which we live our modern life that can unknowingly lead to long term environmental impacts. We have a long, long way to go!

There is good news: you see nature has been around for a very long time. We are the new kids on the block and in the end we are the ones who will live with the choices that we make as a society and as a species.

I very much believe in “hope” itself and I believe deep down we all know that we need to be better stewards of the land. It’s the “what can I do” mentality that makes some of us feel overwhelmed or that there isn’t hope. The truth is you can do plenty! In today’s world information is nothing more then a quick search online. Educate yourself to the simple steps that can be made in your own life to help. Conservation really does start with “you”. Think about that, if we each ensure our own homes make sound decisions then collectively we correct the big picture. That’s what they mean when they say “Think global act local”. Get to know and appreciate the natural world in your own backyard as much as you can because that “is” the world we are trying to protect. In time we will all be a little greener and a lot happier.

Mark Fraser

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Getting to know the world we share

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

The art of exploration isn’t gone as a matter of fact, it’s alive and well. The trick is simply being curious then satisfying the feeling. Never let anyone tell you any different! There is so much to explore and learn about in the natural world that most people don’t even realize it. Here is an interesting test, the next time you walk through or even near a meadow, see if you can name all the plants you find- good luck.  Is that too tough, try just the wild flowers or perhaps stick with Trees. You will soon realize that there are so many species of life on the planet we share it is completely unimaginable. Did you know that no person on planet Earth can name all the species? Think about that, no PHD from any science could even come remotely close- It is literally impossible. Sure you could learn the Mammals of your own hometown, in most areas it’s a small number probably in the 50s or so and maybe even the native fish well at least maybe the inland freshwater species. Birds are tougher but insects… Just trying to do that in your own home region, is next to impossible. Getting to know the myriad of species is the secret sauce to life. You see when we know what lives all around us suddenly the world opens up and we realize we are sharing this world with so many others. Some of the complex systems of life are like miniature version of a little universe. Look at the Milkweed plant. On that one single type of plant there are Large Milkweed Bugs, Small milkweed bugs (two different species) there are Milkweed Aphids, Long horned Milkweed Beetles, Monarch Larva, Swamp Milkweed beetle and the list goes on. There is different species of Milkweed plants themselves. The complexity is stunning. Even Beavers have parasites that have evolved to live only on them!

So that’s just it, there is plenty to explore. Getting to know the natural world is the best way to begin to protect the wild species that live here. How do we know a species is in trouble, unless we take the time to admire and appreciate their world, our world?  It’s really easy and all starts with a hike or a swim and simply paying attention. When you find a species try to identify it. Learn about its call, its habitat and food source. The more you learn about them the more enlightened you will feel. You can start to memorize bird calls for example. With practice, as you listen to the birds singing you’ll find in time you can suddenly name species that you can’t even see.

It’s a long deep breath of fresh air when you look at the forest with open eyes & mind. Teaching ourselves to reconnect to the natural world brings about wonderful things. Perhaps in time, we can again learn to be stewards of the land, instead of just exploiting it…

Mark Fraser

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